The Real Thoroughbred Races of 1948

By Patrick Williams

It was a big year for the Kentucky Derby, and for thoroughbread racing in general, but it wasn’t because of the triumph of Feetlebaum in Spike Jones’s 1948 William Tell Overture.

That year, Citation, ridden by Eddie Arcaro and bred by Calumet Farm, won not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes consecutively.

Visit ESPNClassic to read more about that exciting 1948 Derby race.

Citation was the eighth of only eleven Triple Crown winners to date, and the fourth horse in the 1940s to reach all three Winner’s Circles in a single year. Affirmed was the last horese to take the honor nearly 35 years ago, on June 10th, 1978.

Incidentally, music plays a big part in each of the Triple Crown events; fans sing along to a unique tune before the stakes race at each park.

At the Kentucky Derby, we hear “My Old Kentucky Home,” the official state song of Kentucky.

At the Preakness Stakes, we hear “Maryland, My Maryland”, the official state song of Maryland.

And at the Belmont Stakes, well, that’s a little more complicated. Up until 1997, it was the 1894 James Blake & Charles Lawler-penned tune, “The Sidewalks of New York.”

From 1997 on, we have heard the familiar “Theme from New York, New York,” except in 2010, when crowds were treated to a deviation from that tradition in the form of Alicia Keyes’s hit “Empire State of Mind,” by Jasmine Villegas. Many fans were not pleased.

Will any of this year’s horses have a shot at the Triple Crown? We need only wait until the Preakness Stakes on May 18th so see if Saturday’s Derby winner joins 2012’s I’ll Have Another among the 22 “Double Crown” winners.